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History Cookbook: Bread

This recipe is in categories Baking, Tudors
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  • Bread making
    Bread making
About this recipe
Healthiness : (190 votes)
Difficulty:  4 out of 5 difficulty

Bread was a vital part of the Tudor diet and was eaten with most meals. White bread was eaten by the rich and brown bread by the poor. Making the bread took a great deal of time. 

The kitchen had an oven for baking, which was heated with a burning bundle of twigs called faggots. The fire was raked out onto the floor and then pushed into a space under the oven before the food was put inside.

The rest of the cooking took place directly using a fire burning in the hearth. Tudor kitchens could be noisy places, especially when working near the crackling fire. There is no chimney in this kitchen and the smoke fills the roof space (and sometimes the kitchen!). The kitchen is lit by the fires and the little window, so it can be quite dark too. 

For pictures of the cooking process see our Making Bread Picture Gallery.

With thanks to Cathy Flower-Bond and the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum for their help with making this podcast. 

  • flour
  • butter - if making white bread
  • ale barm
  • ale
  • warm water
  • salt - optional (this will be required if the bread is not to be eaten straight away to help preserve it)
  • Bread trough
  • Cloth for bolting flour - if making white bread
  • Wooden board for kneading the dough
  • Jugs for the water, ale and ale barm
  • 6 faggots (large bunches of twigs for burning in the oven)
  • Wooden scoop for the flour
  • Bread-pail for placing the dough in the oven
Making and cooking it
Always wash your hands before preparing food Always wash your hands before preparing food.

  • Warm the flour by the fire
  • For white bread, bolt the flour (that is sieve it though a fine cloth). Then add a little butter to the flour and rub this in
  • Add a little warm water and mix with the flour
  • Add the ale barm and ale and work the ingredients with your hands until you have a sticky dough
  • Place the dough by the fire and cover with a cloth and allow  to rise until it is roughly twice the size
  • Place the first of the faggots in the bread oven and allow them to burn down (repeat until all 6 have been used)
  • Soak the wooden door of the oven
  • Whilst the oven is being prepared, remove the dough from near the fire and knead for a second time . This removes the air and gives a lighter texture to the loaf
  • Add a little salt (if the loaf is not to eaten the same day)
  • Leave to rise for a second time near the fire
  • Prepared a loose dough from flour and water
  • Rake out the bread oven
  • Shape the dough and place on the bread-pail
  • Using the bread-pail place the dough into the oven
  • Seal the oven by placing the loose dough you have made around the edges of the soaked wooden door
  • When the dough around the door stiffens (after about 40 minutes) the bread should be cooked. Remove the bread from the oven using the bread-pail
  • Tap the bottom of the loaf, if it sounds hollow the bread is cooked
Bread  - print view  Bread - print view

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There are 9 comments for this recipe.
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Name: Thea Pengelly 15th April 2015
Thanks so much for the useful video! I'm currently doing a project at school and I have to describe how to make bread. I was so stuck but this video helped so much, thank you.
Name: Lola 22nd October 2013
such fun to make!
Name: Katy Lambert 11th January 2013
what would you recommend using for the ale and where do I get ale balm from
Thanks This is one of our historical recipes and so ingredients which were readily available then, no longer are. Ale balm is the yeasty sludge you get at the bottom of home made beer, unless you make beer or know someone who does, it can't be got. As an alternative use yeast but make up your yeast solution with hand warm beer and a little sugar and use this. We hope this helps. The Cookit Team.
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